Category: Mass Media

“The Angelina Effect”

In this day of age celebrities dominate our world. They hold elected office, they are activists, they are social media entrepreneurs, they are everywhere. Whether we like to believe it or not they have influence over our behaviors and how we make decisions. I’m guilty that most of the accounts I follow on Instagram are former Bachelor contestants and catch myself wanting to mimic their fashion and fitness routines. In fact, there has been research that has examined this phenomenon. Back in 2013, esteemed actress Angelina Jolie announced that she carries the a genetic mutation that greatly increases your risk of breast and ovarian cancer (BRCA1). In her New York Times opt ed piece, Jolie reveals that she lost her mom, aunt and grandmother to cancer and that influence her decision to undergo preventive surgery to remove both of her breasts (mastectomy) and ovaries. After this announcement, several researchers explored what came to be known as “The Angelina Effect” and how her decision influenced other women’s decisions about their own health. In a study published in Health Services Research journal, hospital data from both New York and the UK revealed that three months after Jolie’s announcement there was a significant increase in preventive mastectomies prior to the announcement. This trend has been seen with other celebrities after announcements of diagnoses and provides incentives for both public figures and healthcare providers to use these instances as teachable moments and bring awareness to employ preventive healthcare.

To learn more about the BRCA1 gene visit the following site:




“If your mother says she loves you, check it out”, Stephanie Brown’s guide to identifying false new stories

On Monday, our class had the pleasure of hearing UNC’s own Stephanie Brown discuss her most recent article “New Stories Credible or Clickable: Schema of Fake News to Corrections” featured in Communication: Journalism Education Today. Stephanie Brown is the director of the Parks Library at UNC’s School of Media and Journalism and is expert in news literacy and how to detect false news. Her presentation focused on the best ways to detect if an article is considered credible or in today’s newly coined phrase “fake news”. She began her presentation with an exercise “Would you share” to get our class thinking about the creditability of articles and if we would feel comfortable sharing them on our own social media platforms. This lively discussion brought up some of the consequences of sharing inaccurate news information and how we go addressing others who share these types of stories. Then she moved on how ways to identify articles that are “fake news” and unreliable sources through a comprehensive checklist. She went through the checklist with a few example articles that captive our class’s attention. The checklist was originally developed by the News Literacy Project and includes about seven items. A few examples of the items on the checklist include looking out for articles that are overly emotional, that use excessive punctuation, make a claim about a secret that the media is hiding from you and the types of sources the article cites. One interesting item on the checklist that she harped on was looking at the advertisements and sponsored content on the sides of the article. That can be a telling item if the advertisement is featuring “Lose 5 lbs in a week with this new pill” vs. “Visit Florida” in determining the credibility of the content.

Here is the full News Literacy project checklist:


Celebrities, Social Media, and Mental Illness

By Jacob Rohde

Earlier this month, Selena Gomez opened up to Harper’s Bazaar magazine about her struggles with mental illness [1]. When asked about her upcoming plans for the new year, Gomez responded:

“I will always start with my health and my wellbeing. I’ve had a lot of issues with depression and anxiety, and I’ve been very vocal about it, but it’s not something I feel I’ll ever overcome… I think it’s a battle I’m gonna have to face for the rest of my life…”

Gomez is joined by several other celebrities, from Gina Rodriguez to Kid Cudi, who have spoken out about the realities of their mental illnesses and have used social media to publicly vocalize their related experiences [2]. For example, Gomez recently used Instagram to talk about her lupus diagnosis, which she has linked to her depression and anxiety [3]. All too often, celebrities are viewed as immune to such circumstances when, in reality, they share many of our own battles with mental illness. Social media allows celebrities, like Gomez, to connect with their audiences who may also struggle from mental illness, or to those who do not fully understand the complexity of mental illness symptoms.

Fifty percent of Americans will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime [4], yet public perceptions about mental illness remain highly stigmatized, especially among young adults and college students [5]. In my own experiences, I have witnessed several students express their reluctance to seek mental health services as to avoid being “outed” by peers and stereotyped.

Efforts to reduce mental illness stigma can benefit from the stories and experiences shared by celebrities through their social media accounts. Indeed, a recent study found that college students exposed to celebrity narratives about mental disorders were far less likely to stigmatize mental illness overall and had fewer negative perceptions about those who seek help for mental illness than students in control conditions [6]. Given this, celebrity use of social media as a platform to talk about mental illness may have a positive effect on how the public perceives mental illness.

Of course, I am not advocating for celebrities to share deeply personal experiences. However, if they choose to address certain issues pertaining to their mental health, it may serve to reduce the taboo culture currently surrounding depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. At minimum, doing so shows that celebrities, like Gomez, are not so different than ourselves.

Mental illness is a serious concern. If you are struggling, please seek professional help or reach out to the 24/7 suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255

If you are a UNC student, free support is available through the Counseling and Psychological Services program (CAPS). Information available here:


  1. Langford, K. (2018). Selena Gomez’s Wild Ride. Harper’s Bazaar. Retrieved from ew/
  2. Yang, L. (2017). 23 celebrities who have opened up about their struggles with mental illness. Retrieved from ess-2017-11#cara-delevingne-struggled-with-depression-as-a-teenager-8
  3. Chiu, M. (2016). Selena gomez taking time off after dealing with ‘anxiety, panic attacks and depression’ due to her lupus diagnosis. People Magazine. Retrieved from s/
  4. Kessler, R. C., Angermeyer, M., Anthony, J. C., De Graaf, R. O. N., Demyttenaere, K., Gasquet, I., … & Kawakami, N. (2007). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of mental disorders in the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative. World Psychiatry, 6(3), 168.
  5. Eisenberg, D., Downs, M. F., Golberstein, E., & Zivin, K. (2009). Stigma and help seeking for mental health among college students. Medical Care Research and Review, 66(5), 522-541.
  6. Ferrari, A. (2016). Using celebrities in abnormal psychology as teaching tools to decrease stigma and increase help seeking. Teaching of Psychology, 43(4), 329-333.

Dear Apple, Keep doing what you are doing

The new Apple Watch commercial “Dear Apple” has the world talking after its debut during this year’s Winter Olympics. It’s personal, heart wrenching and most importantly highlights the incredible impacts of it’s less advertised features. This commercial emphasizes that this technology could revolutionize healthcare and provide life-changing health support. It features anecdotes of a car accident survivor using the feature on the watch to call 911 after their phone was thrown from the vehicle and a child with Type 1 diabetes pairing the watch with her glucose monitor that alerts her when her blood sugars are at low levels. While the ad still features its more traditional feature of tracking physical activity, it was nice to see that the more innovative features of its products and it’s direct benefits. While I love a good selfie, it’s reassuring to know that Apple and other technology companies are using their technology for just more than just three dimensional emojis and higher quality selfies. I look forward to seeing what other technology these companies come up with in the future to help us lead healthier lives.

If you haven’t seen the commercial check it out here:



Corporate Social Responsibility

Customers are threatening companies with boycott if they do not end to their association with the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Lists of companies that offered NRA membership perks were shared on social media, and within 24 hours at least eight companies cut ties. Advocates for reform targeted companies on Twitter and Facebook to engage in this consumer activism—pressuring banks, rental car agencies, airlines, and insurers among others.

According to the Harvard Business Review, moral outrage needs to be the main impetus for a boycott to be successful. As Hannah put it in her post last week, “Each shooting seems to spark the same cycle of outcry among our nation with folks pressuring change from policymakers. Yet each time there is no change from the people in power.”

Are we in a political climate right now that views companies and corporations as more capable of social responsibility than our own legislators? Gun control is a polarizing issue. Companies that don’t cut ties (currently FedEx and Amazon are getting heat) may be boycotted by gun reform advocates, and companies that do cut ties may be boycotted by proponents of the NRA.

“Moral outrage” indeed.



Teens for Gun Reform Make Their White House Appearance

The events that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkside, Florida last week have sparked the gun control debate yet again in the United States. To me the past week has felt a little like déjà vu: Sandy Hook, Route 91 Festival and Pulse nightclub shootings. Thinking even farther back to Columbine shooting in 1997 when a school shooting seemed unthinkable and how that has changed to be almost a predictable occurrence today. Each shooting seems to spark the same cycle of outcry among our nation with folks pressuring change from policymakers. Yet each time there is no change from the people in power. A few weeks go by and there is another story that captives our attention and it is pushed to the back of our minds until the next shooting occurs and the cycle begins again. However one group is attempting to stop this hopeless cycle: Teens for Gun Reform.

Teens for Gun Reform is a student run group that appeared in front of the White House on Monday. They prepared a “silent lie-in” demonstration of 17 members lying down for three minutes in the streets in front of the White House (the amount of time it took the gunman to take the lives of the students and teachers). Around a hundred students and other advocates rallied and protested following the demonstration. These students are standing up for what they believe needs to be changed since policymakers aren’t listening to anyone else. It’s their lives that are in danger and hopefully protests and pressures from this group will lead to change regarding gun control.

To learn more about this group and the protest visit the following sites:

Adam Rippon: America’s Olympic Sweetheart

During the 2018 Winter Olympics that have been happening in Pyeongchang, South Korea, American Figure Skater Adam Rippon has stolen the hearts and minds of many, including this writer. But beyond his charming persona and impressive skating abilities, Rippon has brought visibility to other queer athletes by being the first openly gay athlete to compete in the Games.

Rippon presents by what is defined as stereotypically gay: often using more “feminine” mannerisms and speaking with what can be called the “gay lisp”. At the same time, he is being praised not just for his personality and looks, but also his athleticism, a praise that is often withheld from gay men who do not present in ways that are more heteronormative.

I look forward to seeing what other heights Rippon can reach, and what he will continue to do with the platform that he has amassed. If you’re interested in more reading on this topic, I would highly recommend the article below.


them. How a Fabulous, Femme Gay Man Finally Became America’s Sweetheart –

“May the odds be ever in your favor”: Pyeochang 2018

The month of January has come and gone (for which many of us are very grateful) and now were off to the month of love, my birthday and this year is extra special with the Winter Olympics!  I’m excited for the endless spins of the figure skaters, the incredible jumps of the alpine skiers and the freighting tobogganing trails of the bobsledders. The games begin on Thursday in Pyeochang, South Korea about 80 miles from Seoul, the country’s capital and this is the second time the games have been held in South Korea (the other was the Summer Games in 1988 in Seoul).

This year’s games consist of 102 events and will feature new events added for the first time including big air snowboarding, freestyle skiing, mass-start speed skating and mixed doubles curling. While there are new events this game there are some returning athletes that won’t be joining the games also known as the Russians. After a state-sponsored doping scandal that has unfolded over the past few years the Russians are banned from competing under the Russian flag but are welcome to compete under a neutral flag. It will be interesting to see which ones of them will show and which ones will show their loyalty to Putin.

The live opening ceremonies will be on Friday February 9th at 3:00am EST but for those of us who don’t want to get up in the middle of the night the will be replayed later in the day on NBC at 8 pm EST.  Let the games begin!




In 2018, is “Time Up” for the Grammy Awards?

Last Sunday marked the 60th Annual Grammy Awards presented by the Recording Academy. After the show ended, a number of pieces were shared across the web regarding the breakdown of winners. While Award Shows such as this year’s Golden Globes offering a timely critique of the violation of power, with bold statements of (TimesUp), the Grammys seemed to stumble to acknowledge the inherent misogyny in the Music Industry.

Lorde, who was nominated for Album of the Year for (Melodrama), did not perform because she was not offered a space to perform a song from her album. All of the other nominees in the category were men, and were offered a space to perform (Important to note: Jay-Z reportedly declined an offer to perform).

At a mid-point of the evening, the President of the Recording Academy addressed viewers, and gave a speech where women were encouraged to [come forward and share their truth]. But these words did not seem to correlate with the evening’s award winners. Of the categories awarded on the live broadcast on CBS, only one went to a female artist, with Alessia Cara taking home the trophy for Best New Artist. Even this win has had its fair share of criticism, with break-out star SZA having lost to Cara, and failing to take home a single award, after being the female artist with the most nominations at five.

At the very least, this year’s Grammy Awards felt dated. Some may argue that those who are voting members of The Recording Academy are out of touch with modern music, instead basing artistic value in forms of music that are more “respectable” and “tolerable” to white male audiences. If you have yet to read about this controversy in the Music Industry, I have included some further reading below.



The New York Times- Grammy 2018 Winners: Full List –

Spin Magazine – Grammys Producer on Lorde-Less Show: “There’s No Way We Can Really Deal With Everybody –

Vox – 3 Reasons Why The 2018 Grammys Fell So Flat –

It all started with a meme: The Tide Pod Challenge

In the past few weeks on social media there has been an influx of tweets, Instagrams and Facebook posts about the “The Tide Pod Challenge”. As with many of these social media trends and dares its popularity arose with satirical memes about consuming these pods plastered across the internet. Most likely these memes were inspired by the aesthetics of the pods themselves and described by many as “candy like”.  Teenagers took the memes quite literally and began challenging each other to consume the pods by biting them or perhaps even frying them up before popping them in their mouths.

While this challenge can seem quite hilarious and definitely inspires some chuckles, this challenge is extremely dangerous and has severe health consequences. In the first few weeks of 2018 there have been 37 reported cases of teenagers consuming these pods (the same number of reported cases in all of 2016). Health consequences of consuming these pods include but are not limited to blood pressure changes, seizures, poisoning, burns to the mouth, abdominal pain and vomiting.

In efforts to stop this challenge social media outlets such as YouTube and Facebook are removing content that shows people doing the challenge and Tide has released a new advertisement with NFL player, Rob Gronkowsi, to dissuade the behavior and to highlight the dangerous health effects of consumption.

If you know someone that has consumed these please call the National Poison Help Hotline 1-800-222-1222